URBANA – School officials say the damage from a kitchen fire Monday night at Urbana Middle School may run as high as $27,000.
Aramark food service director Piper Harvey said she and her employees expect to start serving meals from kitchen serving lines today. Meanwhile, she said, Aramark trucked in food from Decatur schools Tuesday and Wednesday to feed students at the middle school and at the elementary schools the kitchen serves.
"We called the health department today and we're hoping they do an inspection this afternoon," Harvey said Tuesday.
Middle school principal Nancy Clinton said school employees, students and volunteers helped keep the school open and make the lunches work smoothly.
"The kids adapted quickly, but it took lots of extra adults," she said.
Several fires were set, in the cafeteria and the Aramark office, Clinton said. Heat from the blazes triggered alarms and sprinklers put out the fires but soaked computers, ceiling tiles and equipment.
Clinton was called to the school about 7 p.m. and when she arrived, water stood 2 inches deep in the hallway next to the cafeteria.
"We had to get Barry Johnson, our head custodian, to turn the sprinklers off," she said. But a "zoned" sprinkler system helped prevent more widespread damage in the kitchen.
Clinton said she and Harvey made the decision Monday night to keep school open. Tuesday's menu – Domino's pizza, peaches and milk – minimized preparation. Harvey said her kitchen cooks for Leal, King, Paine, Wiley, Prairie and Yankee Ridge elementary schools, and the Aramark trucks delivered a variety of lunches to those schools.
District technology employee Jeff Heck was at the school Tuesday and Wednesday getting serving line computers and other equipment running again. Cash registers are computer-driven, so Aramark served lunch free Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ota Dossett, director of facilities, called in a private company to clean and sanitize the damaged area.
"They washed down the walls and fixtures, changed filters, sanitized the duct work, ran an ozone machine," Dossett said. "There was a lot of soot and water damage. But just one sprinkler put out the fire. There was a big cooler under it that costs thousands of dollars, but we bought one with protective elements. We tested it this morning and it works."
He said the sprinkler system that was in place before the recent middle school renovation would have triggered all the sprinklers in the kitchen, causing much worse damage.
"The new system just turns on the sprinkler in the areas where heat is detected," Dossett said.
Harvey's office, computer equipment and records were all destroyed. She said she's sending her computer hard drive to Aramark technicians to see if they can retrieve data stored there.
"It's going to take a while," said Harvey. "One of my employees gave me a sign that said adversity makes you stronger. I must have read that 50 times."
"We'll have one more day of improvised lunch but things are operating well," Clinton told school board members Tuesday night. "It's a successful recovery from a not-so-nice event. We're doing just fine."